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story.lead_photo.caption Some Cave Springs residents favor tearing down the city’s community building because of its deteriorating condition. - Photo by Flip Putthoff

CAVE SPRINGS -- The fate of the Community Building was put on hold for another 30 days after a record number of residents turned out pleading for the city to keep the landmark.

The city went through four engineering firms looking for one that would come up with a repair for the 137 N. Main St. building, said Robert Smittle who chaired the committee tasked with deciding the building's fate.

About Cave Springs

Cave Springs was incorporated in 1910 and has several historic buildings along Main Street. There is one building in the city listed on the National Historical Register. Shores Warehouse, 115 S Main St., is listed on the register and was built in 1911, according to the city website. The Cave Springs Community Building’s estimated construction was in 1936.

Source: Staff Report

Finally one told him no engineer would sign his name to a repair for it, Smittle said.

"I don't know about y'all but that kinda shocked my feet out from under me," he told the group of 40 displaced to the city's American Legion building.

City council meetings, community fundraisers and the city court were held in the building. Residents said it closed about three months ago.

It was built in 1936 and remodeled in 1985 or 1986, Smittle said in his report.

It looks good, but the building isn't structurally sound, said Mayor Travis Lee. Repairs were made last year, he said. Bird nests and mildew outside the building were cleaned off and black paint on the building's windows was scraped away. The building was painted, mismatched doorknobs were replaced and a new thermostat installed, he said.

Then he had a contractor out to install a projector, Lee said. The man said he wouldn't do the work because of what he found, Lee said.

An inspection report issued on Nov. 3 by JPM Inspection Services noted the roof frame was sagging partly from the long span of the building's construction and partly because of the addition of ceiling supports tied into the frame and the weight of wallboard, air ducts and insulation.

The joists and rafters sag 6 inches, putting pressure on the exterior walls, according to the report. The north wall was leaning outside 4-inches and the south wall leaning inside 3-inches, the report stated. Stone piers under the building are stacks of flat stones and have no footings, the report stated.

That the building leans was no surprise to locals. Smittle oversaw a 1980s renovation that used cables to pull the building back into square.

"If they think the walls are leaning now they should have seen it before," he said.

The audience laughed.

A Dec. 14 inspection by McClelland Consulting Engineers in Fayetteville noted the the center of the north and south walls lean to the north at least 6 inches and the roof framing was sagging between 2 and 4 inches in the building's center. The report noted foundation movement and recommended the building be closed until it could be renovated because it could fail under certain conditions.

"The cost to repair the structure is likely to be at least half the cost to replace the building," the report states.

Residents said they wanted to keep the building, saying it represents what is Cave Springs.

"It's breaking my heart, that's all I can say," said resident Linda Merton just before the meeting.

Others agreed.

Some said repairs could be made or the building could be disassembled and restored. Resident Judy Shook asked for time so she could research other restored buildings and return with a report. Some asked what the hurry was in making a decision.

"We're not talking from our heads. We're talking from our hearts," Terry Meredith told the council.

Cost could be a barrier to some of the proposed solutions, Smittle said.

The building needs a new roof immediately and has several leaks, he said.

Mold is in the building and rotting the wood holding up the attic cables, he said.

The building could be left as a landmark, but it will eventually crumble, Lee said.

To get it on the historic register the building would have to undergo a transformation back to its 1936 appearance, council member Larry Fletcher said.

Lee asked residents to think of the future, of a new community center built to replace the old. Residents asked that it have the same look, same location and same purpose as the existing building, although perhaps a little larger.

Don Shores played basketball there when it was the school gym and gathering place. The building was built when the city was one square mile and had 450 residents, he told the group. While he said he feels safe in the building, Shores noted it has not been well maintained in the last 20 years. Code and insurance requirements have changed since its glory days, he said and challenged residents to dig into their pockets for a new building.

"I don't think we've got much choice with what we've got," Shores said.

Flooring and cabinets could be salvaged from the building, Lee said. The city needs a meeting place, he said.

"Unless somebody has some ideas to preserve this building we have no other choice," Lee said.

NW News on 02/10/2016

Print Headline: Cave Springs debates fate of landmark

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